Kelvin Harrison Jr., one of the most acclaimed and heralded young actors of the moment, has booked his latest star vehicle.
Shadow and Act has confirmed that Endeavor Content is developing and financing Samo Lives, an upcoming Jean-Michel Basquiat biopic that he will star in, reteaming with director Julius Onah. Harrison starred in the director’s 2019 film Luce.
It is described as “a bold, artistically-driven biographical film celebrating the incredible origins and global legacy of the New York-born, Haitian-Puerto Rican American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose seminal paintings and street art defined the Neo-expressionism arts movement in the 1980s and whose impact and relevance is still felt 33 years after his untimely death at 27. Portraying the genius Basquiat, whose life, like his art, was vivid, complex, punctuated by the influence of of jazz, bebop and hip-hop music, the intersectionality of race, poverty/wealth/class, power and politics, with the cultural hotbed of Manhattan’s Lower East Side in the late 1970s as a backdrop, is a dream come true for fast rising-star Harrison.”
Onah will direct and produce the film. He co-wrote the screenplay with Peter Glanz. This will be the first time a Basquiat film will be from a Black director. Jeffrey Wright starred in the 1996 biopic and there have been multiple docs over the years, including Sara Driver’s Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat in 2017.
“Jean-Michel Basquiat redefined the idea of who ascends to the highest altitudes of the fine art world. But the complexity and richness of his experience as an artist and child of the African Diaspora has yet to be dramatized in the manner it deserves,’ said Onah in a statement received by S&A. “It’s an honor to work with Kelvin and my collaborators, and with Endeavor Content, to celebrate the legacy of an artist who has invited audiences everywhere to be inspired by the transformative power of art.”
The Luce production team, John Baker, Rob Feng, and Eric Ro (along with Onah) are also behind this as well. Harrison is also an executive producer. Production is expected to begin in fall 2022.